NPSL Year in Review

A look back at the 2019 NPSL season
Dec 30, 2019
The New York Cosmos might not have won a championship in 2019, but they certainly won the hearts of their fans with some magic and memorable moments competing in two leagues.
 
They participated in the National Premier Soccer League from April through August before playing in the NPSL Members Cup from August through October.
 
In the first of a two-part series, here are 10 memorable moments – good and bad – in the first part of the year in the NPSL.
 
1. Ansi to the rescue times two
 
During the preseason, the Cosmos signed Albanian international captain Ansi Agolli. He was hardly window dressing, making an impact as a left back and a midfielder. Agolli's most memorable moments came in back-to-back playoff wins. Against the Brooklyn Italians in the North Atlantic Conference Final at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y. on July 10, Agolli not only scored the lone goal of a 1-0 win, but a golazo as well. Agolli connected volleyed home Danny Szetela's right-wing cross from 25 yards into the upper right corner in the 72nd minute. "Danny gave me a great pass,” he said. “I don't think twice in this moment. I'm happy for scoring this goal. Most importantly, I am happy for my teammates because tonight we gave everything." Agolli, who is left-footed, hasn't scored many goals with his right foot. "He just made a perfect connection. I've seen many big goals in my life, but it was one of the greatest first-time volleys that I've seen, especially the angle of the goal." Szetela said.
 
In the Cosmos' next playoff encounter, Agolli snapped a 1-1 tie in the 70th minute as the Cosmos recorded a 3-1 triumph over FC Baltimore in the Northeast Region Final at Mitchel on July 21. It wasn't as spectacular as his Brooklyn goal, but it counted the same. Junior Burgos added an insurance tally in the 82nd minute.
 
2. Bardic's barrage
 
The Brooklyn Italians traditionally have battled the Cosmos on even turns through the years, so when Bledi Bardic snapped a hat-trick against them on the road in the first half hour at the Met Oval in Maspeth, Queens on June 8, it certainly turned a lot of heads. Bardic recorded his first three-goal game for the Cosmos, finding the net in the fourth, 17th and 30th minutes. His strike partner Ally Hassan found the net in the 14th minute. "Tonight, we definitely were the most complete we've been," head coach Carlos Mendes said. "I'm very proud of the group. Very good performance. We came with a game plan and the guys kept to it."
 
3. Barone's golazo
 
Giuseppe Barone started the game on the bench, but he made sure he was on the field for one hell of a finish in the 2-0 road win at Kingston Stockade FC at Dietz Stadium on May 4. While sitting on the bench, Barone noticed a possible weakness with keeper Lucas Vallilo. So, when he got his opportunity, the midfielder took it, taking advantage of Vallilo’s roaming nature and connected for an astonishing 50-yard wonder goal that sealed the victory and left spectators, coaches and teammates in awe. “Just unbelievable,” Mendes said. “I was honestly in shock,” said Giuseppe’s brother, Cosmos midfielder Salvatore Barone. “It was an amazing goal. So happy for him.” Added Giuseppe about his unofficial soccer bucket list: “I never scored a goal like that so I guess I can cross it off.”
 
4. What a debut
 
Only 17 minutes after he stepped onto the field as a halftime substitute, mid-season pick-up Isaac Acuna scored to help the Cosmos to a 5-0 home win past the Greater Lowell Rough Diamonds on June 23. To show it was no mistake, Acuna struck for both goals in another home victory, this time a 2-0 result over the Rhode Island Reds on June 30. He celebrated goals in the 15th and 37th minutes, giving the striker three tallies within a 65-minute span over two matches. “I am very happy to be with this team,” he said. “I am happy because of my goal and the way the team played. I hope I can score more goals to help my team win more matches.”
 
5. A friendly to remember
 
A good time was had by all. Especially by the Cosmos and Aly Hassan. Hassan snapped a tie in the 89th minute to boost the Cosmos to a 2-1 victory over FC St. Pauli in an entertaining international friendly at Rocco B. Commisso Stadium on May 23. "It was a big occasion," he said as the Cosmos hosted their first international match since 1985. "I'm well aware of the team and how they play. I follow them a little bit. So, having scored the game-winner against them is awesome. It's pretty cool." It certainly was. Just playing against the Bundesliga 2. side was a thrill for many Cosmos players. "It was special," Szetela said. "It finally feels good not to go to another country to play an international friendly. It's always fun to go, obviously, but it was exciting. Good atmosphere." It was a memorable night as supporters of both sides partied and marched together. "It looked like they enjoyed it," Mendes said. "A great team to play against, a good level, a nice crowd. So, I think the guys were excited. It was a fun game and I think overall it went very well, so we enjoyed it."
 
6. Open Cup drama and heroics
 
For the first time since 2016, the Cosmos would live to play another day in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and they had Bardic to thank for that. The striker headed home an Agolli corner kick six minutes into second-half stoppage time to lift the Cosmos to a 2-1 first-rond victory over a plucky Black Rock FC side at Commisso Stadium on May 8. Immediately after scoring, Bardic ripped off his white shirt and ran to the stands to celebrate in front of the Cosmos supporters. He was given a yellow card for the infraction. About a minute later, after Black Rock FC kicked off, the game was whistled over. Aaron Dennis' third goal in as many games lifted New York into the lead in the 28th minute, but the Premier Development League side equalized on Komar Martinez-Paiz’s goal in the 87th minute.
 
7. Junior's free kick deuce
 
Junior Burgos has forged a reputation of turning free kicks into goals, but before this season he had scored off set pieces in the same game only once. He made it twice in a 5-0 triumph over Boston City FC on May 13. Within a 15-minute span late in the game at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y., the Salvadoran international midfielder scored twice off free kicks, leaving the crowd of 5,121 cheering and coaches and teammates using superlatives to describe the goals. "Two amazing goals," head coach Carlos Mendes said. "That's fantastic to have a weapon [like that]," added Mendes, who had to defend against Burgos' free kicks when he played with the Cosmos. "I've known from before, even playing against him how dangerous he is.”
 
With the Cosmos enjoying a 2-0 lead in the 75th minute, Burgos attempted a free kick 30 yards out on the right side that he powered past goalkeeper Jason Katz. The second free kick tied a bow on the Cosmos’ win in the 90th minute as Burgos took this attempt from 20 yards out on the left side, drilling it into the right corner. It turned out to be the final kick of the match. Burgos said his first goal was his favorite “because it was a lot further out. It was my first goal as New York Cosmos player, and it will be one that I remember for a long time.”
 
8. Double brace
 
The Cosmos scored an NPSL-season high seven goals in their 7-1 rout of the Greater Lowell Rough Diamonds at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Mass. on May 17. Charlie Ledula scored twice in the opening half and Aly Alberto Hassan added two more in the second half. Junior Burgos, Salvatore Barone and Bardic added goals as the visitors grabbed a 3-0 halftime advantage.
 
9. So close, so far
 
Like it or not, every season has its valleys and one of the Cosmos most disappointing moments came in the second round of the Open Cup as they dropped a 2-1 decision to Hartford Athletic, despite outplaying their hosts, at Al-Marzook Field at the University of Hartford on May 14. Hartford struck twice within a nine-minute span in the opening half as Harry Swartz tallied his first pro goal and Mads Jorgensen sent a one-bounce shot to the near post around a two-man wall for a 2-0 margin. Bardic pulled the Cosmos within one with a highlight-reel goal in the 58th minute. He drilled a 35-yard shot into the upper 90 in the right corner past goalkeeper Jacob Lissek. New York dominated huge portions of the match but could not find the equalizer.
 
10. Falling short
 
After going 13-0-1 in the regular season and extending their unbeaten streak to 17 games in the playoffs, the Cosmos proved to be mortal, losing the NPSL final to Miami FC at Mitchel on Aug. 3, 3-1. Dylan Mares scored twice within a five-minute span (in the 19th and 24th minutes). The hosts pulled one back behind Agolli's third playoff goal in the 31st minute but could not pull even. Shawn Chin gave Miami some breathing room in the 90th minute.
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